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By HorseplayerNOW.com Night School host Joe Kristufek

 If you play the races, every day, is, in essence, a handicapping contest.

In the pari-mutuel system of wagering, the racetrack you’re betting on essentially acts as a broker. Everyone wagers into the pool, the track, state and horsemen take their percentage, and the rest of the money is distributed to the winners.

In the last 20 years or so, organized handicapping contests have become extremely popular. What was once a novelty in Las Vegas and Reno, Nevada, has become an every weekend occurrence at live venues all over the country, and on-line.

The NTRA/DRF National Handicapping Championship and its vast series of online and local satellite contests is the ultimate prize in the U.S., offering a purse of $1.5 million this coming January.

Tonight on horse racing Night School, the racing industry's national online fan education program, the winners of the last two NHCs, Michael Beychok (2011) and John Doyle (2010) will be the guests.

The 90-minute interactive lessons begin weekly at 8:30 p.m. ET, and this week’s focus is "Handicapping Contests", marking the 23rd of 40 sessions scheduled for 2012. I will be hosting the session, and participating racing fans will have an opportunity to ask questions directly to Beychok and Doyle. Set a reminder and join FREE horse racing Night School fan education here.

In addition, Horse Player NOW's "King" James Dickson, a contest winner and NHC qualifier the past two seasons, shares his thoughts on the tournament experience and winning strategies via video.

This past January in perhaps the most exciting finish in NHC history, Beychok, a 48-year-old political consultant and native of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, won the $1 million top prize by one single dollar when his final contest play, Glorious Dancer, crossed the finish line first at Golden Gate Fields. He later claimed the filly for $6,250, and has since won with her. In 2010, Doyle, a 50-year-old longtime IBM account executive, also won the NHC on his very last play of the contest when $13.20 winner Dapper Gene scored at Santa Anita.

If you don’t think handicapping contests are exciting, check out these videos of Beychok and his crew, watching the race that earned him the NHC crown!

This week's study materials, courtesy of Horse Player NOW and Daily Racing Form, are here.

This week's preview video:

If you have an interest in horse racing, but have never played in a handicapping contest before, what are you waiting for, seriously?

Handicapping contests are fun and competitive. Regardless of your current skill level, timing is everything. All horseplayers are capable of picking winners. Preparation, analysis and understanding of the rules are key components to victory, but in the end, the stars must align!

Here are some quick handicapping contest pointers:

  • Know the rules. Every contest is a little different. Some have a buy-in and are scored based on fantasy wagers, others are “live money” events.
  • Based on the number of participants and based on past history, have a target score in mind.
  • Be as prepared as possible entering the day's action. Do your homework. Understand the current trends at each tournament track, and recognize which barns are heating up. Watch replays. Preparation puts you in a position to succeed.
  • Preparation is key, but be willing to call audibles based on race day information. Scratches can alter pace scenarios. Recognize if a track bias exists that day. Watch the toteboard and post parade for clues, and make sure you are getting “fair odds” on the your contest plays.
  • In tournaments with optional races, be patient, but don't let opportunities pass you by either. There will only be so many "price" horses that strike your fancy during the course of the afternoon/evening. If you like a horse at big odds, even if it's early in the day, don't be afraid to take a swing.
  • Keep a level head. If things aren’t going well early, don’t panic and stay positive. Most contests are routes, not sprints.

Another "After Night School Special," featuring live racing from Mountaineer Park, will follow tonight from 10:00-11:00 p.m. ET, covering the late daily double in real time with free, live-streaming video and complimentary Daily Racing Form past performances.

Thursday Night at 8:30 p.m. ET, a special Night School Big Event "Arlington Million Preview Day Camp" will be conducted. Join Arlington Park analyst Jessica Pacheco, BRISNET.com's Ed DeRosa and me for the one-hour seminar, which will cover the 12th annual Million Preview Day program, to be held Saturday, July 14. The card showcases the final local prep races for the August 18 Arlington Million and International Festival of Racing, featuring four graded stakes worth an aggregate of $750,000 in purses - the $150,000 Stars and Stripes - 1 1/2 miles turf, the $200,000 Arlington Handicap - 1 1/4 miles turf,  the $200,000 Modesty Handicap - 1 3/16 miles turf, f&m and the $200,000 American Derby - 1 3/16 miles turf, 3yo's.

Presenting title sponsors for Night School are the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, American Quarter Horse Association, Keeneland, Churchill Downs, Inc. and Daily Racing Form.

The July 17 episode of Night School will focus on “Workouts and Clockers”. 

Image Description

Joe Kristufek

The face of ABR's "Racing 101", Joe Kristufek is a self-proclaimed horse racing "ambassador," and fan development has been his passion since the moment he took his first job in the industry.

Kristufek is the morning-line maker for Arlington Park and Kentucky Downs and he serves as the handicapper and racing writer for the Daily Herald newspaper. 

Kristufek has developed and executed several horse racing-related, fan-education projects both online and onsite and he is a member of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters. 

He has co-owned five horses in partnership and is the process of developing an ownership group of his own. Kristufek is also becoming an increasing presence on the tournament scene. 

Kristufek was the on-air talent for Hawthorne's between-race presentation and replay shows in the 1990s, and served as a on-air host and content coordinator for The Racing Network in 2000-2001. He was the owner, producer and host of popular horse racing magazine show Horsin' Around TV, airing 85 episodes from 2003-2005 on Fox Sports Chicago and Comcast SportsNet Chicago.

A beer and indie/alternative music snob, Joe is a Chicago Bulls season ticket holder and there aren't too many people who can keep up with him on a billards table. 

 

Image Description

Joe Kristufek

The face of ABR's "Racing 101", Joe Kristufek is a self-proclaimed horse racing "ambassador," and fan development has been his passion since the moment he took his first job in the industry.

Kristufek is the morning-line maker for Arlington Park and Kentucky Downs and he serves as the handicapper and racing writer for the Daily Herald newspaper. 

Kristufek has developed and executed several horse racing-related, fan-education projects both online and onsite and he is a member of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters. 

He has co-owned five horses in partnership and is the process of developing an ownership group of his own. Kristufek is also becoming an increasing presence on the tournament scene. 

Kristufek was the on-air talent for Hawthorne's between-race presentation and replay shows in the 1990s, and served as a on-air host and content coordinator for The Racing Network in 2000-2001. He was the owner, producer and host of popular horse racing magazine show Horsin' Around TV, airing 85 episodes from 2003-2005 on Fox Sports Chicago and Comcast SportsNet Chicago.

A beer and indie/alternative music snob, Joe is a Chicago Bulls season ticket holder and there aren't too many people who can keep up with him on a billards table. 

 

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